Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But the journey was very, very tough. Let’s find out more about Karan Batra’s Chartered Club.
We recently caught up with Karan at his co working office in Okhla, Delhi and it was insightful to discuss his journey from being a CA to building CharteredClub.com. Karan started an online community on facebook in 2009 and having an early movers advantage helped Karan, who now has more than 3.7 lakh members on his page on facebook! In 2011, Karan switched to building the portal and initially worked on the platform from home before shifting to a co working space in 2014. His website now clocks close to 25 million views per year and he attributes his success to his community members.
Here are some excerpts from our interview with him.
Q. Tell us briefly about Chartered Club and what it aims to do?
A: Chartered Club is an online platform which was initially created to connect CA’s and CA Students with each other.
Earlier this platform was only for CA to CA interactions but we later realised that the common man faces a lot of issues with respect to CA related work. To bridge this gap between the common man and the CA’s, we now also facilitate interactions between CA’s and the common man as well.
Q How did such a portal even come to mind, considering CAs are not the most tech savvy people and you could have also gone on to join any top consulting firm?
A. I started this platform as I myself felt a very major pain point as CA’s weren’t much connected with each other at that time.
There were very few CA’s with whom I could connect online so I created a simple facebook page through which I could connect with them. I was trying to solve my own problem but ended up solving the problem of the whole world.
In the process of connecting with other CA’s across India, I found the online world very exciting so I thought of not joining any consulting firm and opted to follow my passion which was building a community. For a detailed read on how it started and the growth story, you may refer this link on Quora wherein to my surprise – I saw people asking about my journey
Q. How many people started this, how big is your team now?
A: I started this alone with a couple of freelancers. I still prefer the freelance model and have a couple of freelancers who help me with the same.
Building a community is not about having an inhouse team, building a community is about users who create the content on your behalf.
Q. Among millions of websites, how did you manage to create space for a niche like yours? What are the key factors that contributed to its growth?
A: In my case, it was the early mover advantage that certainly worked and helped me get the initial users. However, once competition starts coming up – the early mover advantage slowly dies and it is the quality that matters.
So irrespective you have the first mover advantage or not, it is the Quality which every startup should be focussing on.If you have quality on your website, you’ll surely get noticed. Success may be delayed but not denied.
And to deliver Quality – you must do your work with full dedication and passion.
You can also know more about Karan and Chartered Club’s journey through this video courtesy 91 Springboard
Q. There has been a lot of buzz around social media vs SEO which was traditionally the growth enabler for all websites. How do you attribute your success to these mediums and what plays a major role in the longer run for you?
A. When I started – social media was picking up and I was quick to harness the opportunity. I leveraged a lot through social media and got the initial traffic. However, slowly the organic traffic started increasing and as on date – organic traffic constitutes a big chunk of the total traffic.
From my experience, I have learnt that if the content on your website has a short self life and people may not be interested in it after a certain time – then social media may be more fruitful.
However, if the content on your website has a long shelf life and people are searching for it on google (as is my case), then organic will completely overshadow the social media traffic.
So first analyse what is the type of content on your website and then plan where your Social Media and SEO strategy.
Q. How do you monetize your website?
A. I was initially monetising my website through Advertisements. However, I later realised that Ads model in itself is not a scalable business model.
The best business model is not the one where the Advertisers or the VC’s fund your business. The best business model in the long run is where your users fund your business through sales. Therefore, we now provide services to our users and HR Consultancy services to CA’s through our domain.
We have a Jobs Section on our website which is quite active and we expect it to be a major revenue generator for us in the longer run.
Q. What are some of the biggest challenges you faced while growing this community based website and how did you overcome them?
A. Getting the initial users is the biggest challenge which every start-up faces. And to get these intial users, I followed the 1% rule for building a community. As per the 1% rule –
- 1% of the users will only very actively create new content
- 9% of the users will create content but only once in a while
- 90% of the users will only read or observe but will not contribute
When building a community, it is very important to focus on these1% of the users as they will only create the content which would be read and discussed upon by others.
How do you get these 1% users active on your community is more of an art than a science. In my case, it was me and my team who were initially creating all the content and slowly we started seeing some traction and users also started contributing.
Q. What would be your one piece of advice to any budding content website creators out there. What truly makes a website work and how does one sustain in the long run?
Whenever you are creating any content – think from the point of view of your user. Try to step into his shoes and think that why would he come on your website. What unique are you offering him which he may be interested in.
Focus on getting users to stay on your website. Apart from focussing on new visitors, also focus on getting repeat visitors.
As far as sustaining in the long run is concerned – you have to be flexible. The only thing predictable about the future is change.
Considering the speed at which the use of technology is growing, you have to be quick to spot opportunities and take action. The speed of execution is extremely important if you are a startup operating in the online space.